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Jon Jones first UFC fight: Talent led 'Bones' to UFC 140 main event, but chance got the ball rolling

Photo of Jon Jones' Octagon debut against Andre Gusmao at UFC 87 via <a href=""></a>.
Photo of Jon Jones' Octagon debut against Andre Gusmao at UFC 87 via

Quick, what do you remember best about UFC 87: "Seek and Destroy"?

Was it when -- for 25 minutes straight -- Georges St. Pierre pretended he was Jon Fitch's big brother and beat the living hell out of him for ratting out to mom and dad that "Rush" was sneaking booze out from the liquor cabinet? Or was it the equally one-sided beatdown Brock Lesnar handed to Pride FC veteran Heath Herring? That somersault the "Texas Crazy Horse" did after getting bulldozed by the cinderblock at the end of Lesnar's arm is rather memorable.

Of course, your fondest memory might be when loudmouth Manny Gamburyan got shellacked by Rob Emerson in hilariously brutal fashion. I wouldn't even blame you if what you remember from the Minneapolis, Minn., event is the fact that it is -- to date -- the only time the Octagon appeared in the "North Star State." That little nugget of knowledge might earn you some cheddar poppers on trivia night.

UFC 87 can be remembered for many things, but one thing -- maybe above all else -- it should be remembered for is the birth of a champion and a potential future mixed martial arts (MMA) legend.

It was none other than UFC 140 headliner Jon Jones. And it almost didn't happen.

It would be great if the story behind Jones' debut was that Joe Silva or even Dana White saw footage of this young phenom and saw the potential for a future champ. However, what makes for an even more interesting story if the real reason "Bones" stepped inside the Octagon against André Gusmão.

He was the last minute replacement for an injured fighter.

Seven days removed from his sixth professional bout, Jones stepped in for Tomasz Drwal on two weeks notice. Jones was lauded by some and questioned by others for taking on Mauricio Rua on such short notice after defeating Ryan Bader, but for him, it was old hat.

On top of the insanely short turnaround time, his opponent was quite the step up in competition for the young fighter. His six previous opponents have a combined 20-16 record, each of them nothing more than high end regional talent.

Gusmão had impressed in the defunct International Fight League (IFL), earning stoppages in three of his four wins. Walking into the Octagon with an equally unblemished record as the one "Bones" had, the oddsmakers had the Brazilian as the heavy favorite.

But for 15 minutes Jones' power, reach and unorthodox striking felled his opponent like it would all the others. The first round started well for the IFL veteran, but you could see the energy being sapped from his body as a result of Jones' strength. Every time they clinched, the future Greg Jackson-trained champion's giant frame took its toll on Gusmão, who was forced to carry most of the weight.

The flashy strikes "Bones" would become known for -- like spinning back fists and elbows -- were in full effect during the first two rounds. The third round played out as the previous two had with Jones imposing his will on his opponent. Despite the Brazilian raising his arms after the final horn sounded, everyone in the arena knew he had lost the fight.

The UFC light heavyweight champion made his Octagon debut that evening and nine fights later, he finds himself opposite Lyoto Machida in tonight's main event and on the cusp of becoming the most dominant 205-pound champion since Chuck Liddell.

Derailing the hype train of another seemingly equally promising prospect in Bader, "Bones" was offered the title shot former teammate Rashad Evans was too injured to cash in himself. Six weeks and 12 minutes later, the Greg Jackson product joined the ranks of legends like Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Frank Shamrock.

He then defended his title against Quinton Jackson, a feat that hasn't been matched since "Rampage" himself did it when he bested Dan Henderson at UFC 75. Before his title tilts, Jones was dominating Vladimir Matyushenko and literally breaking Brandon Vera's face. A submission win over Jake O'Brien and a decision victory over Stephan Bonnar round his out UFC conquests.

The only bump on the road on the way to championship gold was his disqualification loss to Matt Hamill for nailing the retired fighter with several illegal elbows. Losing without really losing, "Bones" shed the pressure of remaining undefeated in the easiest way possible. It's actually quite fitting for how effortlessly he's made his way to the top.

And it all started at UFC 87.

Some might blame the last-minute change in opponent for Gusmão's loss, but watching the fight it becomes obvious over the course of 15 minutes that the Brazilian simply didn't have the perfect combination of skill and talent to beat Jones.

Then again, does anyone?

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